Henry Cecil Back in Lime 'Light' with Oaks Victory

Henry Cecil Back in Lime 'Light' with Oaks Victory
Photo: AP Photo/Rebecca Naden
Light Shift (right) gives Henry Cecil his 8th win in the Oaks.
After a seven-year absence,  Henry Cecil, the master of Warren Place and one of the greatest trainers in the history of the British turf, roared back into the Classic spotlight when his high class filly Light Shift captured the Vodafone Oaks (Eng-I) at Epsom on Friday.

The victory provided Cecil with his 24th British Classic win, and his eighth overall in the Oaks. His last such victory came with Ramruma in 2000. The trainer, who has overcome a battle with alcoholism and is currently undergoing treatment for stomach cancer, entered the Epsom winner’s enclosure to a resounding “three cheers” from appreciative racing fans.

Cecil went into the Oaks with a strong entry of Passage of Time, the 5-2 favorite, and Light Shift.  Passage of Time, a homebred daughter of Dansili, races for Khalid Abdullah’s Juddmonte Farm. She had captured the Criterium de Saint-Cloud (Fr-I) over colts last year, and was coming off of a victory in the Tattersalls Musidora Stakes (Eng-III) at York last month.

Light Shift, a daughter of Kingmambo owned and bred by the Niarchos family, entered the Oaks off of three straight wins, most recently having added the Weatherbys Bank Cheshire Oaks to her resume. Sues Surprise and Four Sins led the field from the break, and made most of the running for the first five furlongs of the 1 1/2-mile event. Both Light Shift, under Ted Durcan, and Passage of Time, with Richard Hughes aboard, were traveling well in mid-pack. As the field straightened for home, Aidan O’Brien’s All My Loving moved up to the leaders and took command with three furlongs left.

Passage of Time and Light Shift both made their moves, along with Peeping Fawn, who was under a full head of steam from the back of the pack. Passage of Time appeared to flatten out, but Light Shift took over the lead from All My Loving, who was still digging in. Looming a major threat now on the outside was her stablemate Peeping Fawn, who rolled past All My Loving with her sights set on Light Shift.

The fight to the wire never materialized since Light Shift remained well within herself and easily kept Peeping Fawn at bay. The winning margin was a half-length, with All My Loving holding on for third, four lengths behind the top pair.

Time for the 1 1/2-mile distance was 2:40.38.

Plans for Light Shift are fluid, with a start in the Irish Oaks (Ire-I) possible next. 

Cecil, who was overcome with emotion after the race said, “It is very satisfying to come back and win a race like this. I have enjoyed it and it gives me every incentive to go on and win it again. I have always trained horses from owner-breeders, but a lot of them have died, and if it wasn’t for Prince Khalid Abdullah and the Niarchos family, I probably wouldn’t be here now. The reception I got was quite overwhelming really.”

Light Shift is a 3-year-old bay filly out of Lingerie, by Shirley Heights.  She is a 3/4-sister to champion mare Shiva, who won the Tattersalls Gold Cup (Ire-I) in 1999.

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